Tradition of China — Grief Etiquette

Chinese grief etiquette

In ancient Chinese culture, death was considered as important as birth. That is the reason for the rich burial in history.


Nowadays, in modern big cities, many complicated rites are omitted, while in small and relatively remote villages, traditional grief ceremonies are still strictly applied. 


In the history of China, the Grief Etiquettes were held to mourn for death, poor harvest, disease, natural disaster, or insurgence. 

Grief Etiquette of National Disasters

On periods with large-scale disasters in the history of China, like poor harvest or plague, the government would hold a series of activities and implement relevant policies to deal with it.


That included providing free food, free burial budgets, low-interest loans, recruitment of poor people for national construction jobs, lowering taxes, loosening strict laws, canceling corvee, lowering the standards or canceling of expansive celebration activities, forbidding the performance of music, encouraging marriage to guarantee population, and offering sacrifice ceremonies to certain deities.  

People in white mourning apparel on funeral ceremony in Tradition of China

Funeral Ceremony

When a person is dying, close relatives would come and listen to his/her last words.


They shouldn’t cry before death but could cry loud after the departure.


Then they would inform relatives and friends about the sad news and the burial date, either in person or with letters (for those living far away).


They also need to wear mourning clothes, and shouldn't come inside of other people’s houses. 

Coffin and flags on funeral ceremony in Tradition of China

Before they put the deceased into a coffin, close relatives would take a shower, cut hair, and put on shrouds for the dead; some places also required to cover a white silk fabric on the dead’s face.


During this period, no tears could be dropped on the body, and no leather clothes should be worn on the dead; it is believed that wearing a leather shroud could make the person turn into an animal in the next life.


Inside the coffin, the dead’s head would be towards the indoor and the feet towards the outdoor direction.


In the past, the body of the deceased needed to, companied by family, stay at home for seven days before the burial. Now the home-staying period is much shorter.


During this staying period, other relatives and friends could come for condolence, with gifts or money.


Then after divination, burial ceremonies would be held.


Accompanied by family, the coffin would be sent to the burial place. Funeral procession differs according to history, geography, and financial status, but usually includes paper money, some lights, bands, and paper made daily necessities (like bridge, house, servants, etc.), Buddhist monks and Taoist priests, relatives and friends, etc. 


When they arrived at the tomb, there would be some rites before the burial of the coffin and the setting up of gravestone. 

See off team in Chinese funeral ceremony in Tradition of China

Every seven days after the death date, close family members would go to the tomb to mourn, until 49 days later; that means the 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th, 35th, 42nd, and 49th day after someone's departure.


On the 100th day after the death, and each anniversary, memorial rites should be held as well.


Within a certain period (usually one year or three years after death), close family members are not supposed to wear bright color clothes or hold celebration activities; those restrictions, however, are much less strict nowadays. 

Visiting and memorizing tomb etiquette in Tradition of China